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Tuesday, November 18, 2008


  • The Food Vine's Cooking Tips
  • Anchovy fillets: add half to one fillet to a jus for a meaty flavour. If you have no fish stock, add an anchovy fillet to water.
  • Alligators: come in various sizes and are a great kitchen instrument for minute cutting - taking the pain away.
  • Almond Oil: is perfect to use for moulds - prevents sticking and is tasteless.
  • Bain Marie: always use boiling water and place a folded tea-towel on the bottom of the pan.
  • Butter: If your butter is too hard for creaming hold it in a dish over a flame for 30 seconds then use your hand to work in the sugar - your hand is hot too and helps the softening process.
  • Beurre Blanc: If it splits add a little cream and bring up to the boil and whisk in.
  • Crème Anglaise: let the milk almost boil then pour it onto the eggs on the side so it thickens straight away. Return eggs and milk to the pot and stir briefly – it’s ready!
  • Croutons: Add to soups that contain no fat; they give it some! Add a little parmesan to your almost cooked croutons for a great flavour!
  • ChillingPlates: Wrap plates in cling film and place in fridge. The wrap prevents moisture on the plates so no last minute wiping.
  • Chocolate for dessert: Serve with a fortified wine like Muscat or Toquay.
  • Is chicken cooked?: Rotate a leg or check the juices run clear.
  • Carrots to line a terrine: After slicing blanch briefly to make them more pliable.
  • Carrots Julienne: Slice first on a mandolin or electric slicing machine then cut into julienne.
  • Consommé: Veal makes the best consommé due to the high protein content. Chilled it turns to guaranteed jelly! Place two brown onion halves (skin on) down the sides of the saucepan once it's on the continual simmer. The consommé when cooked will have a lovely honey colour!
  • Celery: in dishes like Pot au Feu where the celery is served in the dish (not discarded) use the root end up to the first seven inches. Make several cuts down to the root itself but not through it, Shape the bottom to a point, quarter so you have 4 bundles. Tie each bundle with string. Remove each bundle when it is cooked, keep hot and untie before serving. The object is so each quarter cooks as a whole, keeping its shape during cooking and looks good at the end!
  • Deep Frying: Choose oils with a high smoke point like soybean, sunflower, corn and peanut.
  • Duck Fat: render down pieces of duck fat for later use. Great to cook potatoes in.
  • Eggs: Never cook them longer than 9 minutes otherwise the sulphur releases and they will go black once cold.
    Eggs: Cover with cold water and slowly bring to the boil uncovered. Immediately take off heat, cover and leave 12 minutes: PERFECT!
  • Flour: sifting it removes impurities and the air makes it lighter!
  • Flour Self-Raising: add two level teaspoons baking powder to every cup of plain flour. Saves buying two flours.
  • Fish Quenelles: put mixture twice through your food processor then scrape through a drum sieve so it is as smooth as possible. A good test is to hold a filled spoonful upside down - it must not drop off the spoon!
  • Foil: Use shiney side out to speed up cooking process.
  • Frying Pans: to have a completely moisture free pan place enough salt in the bottom to cover the surface, thickly spread. Place on a VERY low heat (the pilot light if you have one) until the salt turns grey. Discard salt, wipe out pan and oil lightly. Repeat as and when necessary. To use:
    Step 1: Heat the frying pan on medium
    Step 2: Add fat – heat, as soon as it bubbles it’s ready
    If a pan is seasoned well and water free, heated first then fat heated: food will release easily and not stick, it also ensures food starts cooking at the correct temperature giving better control and even cooking throughout. If your fat burns because the heat is too high, wipe out the pan and start again.
    Sauté: means you always use the cooking juice. Pan Fry: means you throw away the fat.
  • Garlic: blanched in a flavouring like milk or cream depending on the sauce is better than using raw garlic!
    Garlic: Crush to a creamy paste using the back of a medium size table knife and a little salt to provide abrasion.
    Glazing: Use apricot or red currant jelly. It must be boiling hot.
  • Glazing: Egg and cream together gives a better shine to pastry.
    Garnish: For Asian food, use the finely sliced green rings of spring onion tops.
  • Garnishing Plates: Use only 5 pieces of garnish - never any more and spray the pieces lightly with vegetable oil. Shiney looks great!
  • Herbs: freeze fresh coriander in brown paper bags - it keeps for ages.
  • Herbs: wash fresh herbs and pat dry. Wrap in a damp tea towel and store in the fridge.
  • Jus: When reducing a jus use a wide container to evaporate the steam quickly.
  • Kitchen Shop Paris: E. Dehillerin, is the best in the world
  • Limes/Lemons: heat 20 seconds in the microwave or roll on the bench to make them juicy.
  • Lobster: Put to ‘sleep’ in the freezer first before killing with a knife through the brain or placing in boiling water. Lobster is better undercooked than overcooked. Cut tail into medallions at joints, torso in two halves lengthways, remove lungs and sac. The coral is considered a delicacy. Males have narrow hips, female’s wide hips to hold their eggs.
  • Meat: If a recipe calls for whole rump in a casserole or stew use chuck or blade to economise!
  • Meat slicing: Cut across the grain unless you live in France where Magret (duck breast) is cut along the grain in lengths.
  • Marrow: to extract marrow from bones place the bones in a dish of ice water for a few minutes. The marrow will shrink and pop out of the bone. Add marrow at the end of the cooking time to a stew, gravy, meat sauce etc.. it melts quickly and gives a truly delicious flavour.
  • Oil: It is best to use oils with little flavour in cooking. Once heated the flavour dissipates. Canola oil has no flavour, peanut a little, grape seed a little. Olive oil is expensive and better used for dressings. Preferred cooking oil is grape seed it has a high temperature tolerance.
    Onions: blanch briefly prior to use in a salad or any cold dish.
    Onions in a stock: that is to become a jus or gravy benefits from cooking the skin too. This helps to darken the finished sauce and gives a strong flavour. Remove skin prior to serving.
  • Pastry Cases (baked blind): spread jam or melted chocolate onto the base then add fruit - this helps to keep the pastry moist and gives a third dimension.
  • Persillade: is a mixture of parsley and garlic finely chopped together and sprinkled over potatoes at the end of cooking for a truly French flavour.
  • Pastry (rolling): roll pastry under plastic or between sheets of silicone or baking paper then use the paper to line the tin!
  • Plates for serving: Make sure they are hot for hot food and very cold for cold food. See: Chilling Plates
  • Poach: then roast pears for tarts if unripe.
  • Potatoes: par boil from a cold water start so the heat penetrates. Only add salt at boiling point if they are to be served whole. For mashed, pureed or sauteed potatoes add salt at the last stage of cooking.
  • Potatoes: do not like to be whizzed in a food processor - the starch becomes elastic giving an awful result.
  • Potatoes steamed: is a foolproof way to partly pre-cook them prior to roasting or pan frying. No moisture in the spuds will change your life and its!
  • Potato Starch: also known as Fecule - when adding this ingredient or any thickener for that matter it must come back to the boil so you can see how thick it is!
  • Pomegranite Seeds: harvest and freeze to use all year. Nature's jewels!
  • Prawns: make only a small incision in the middle of the back to remove the digestive tract when butterflying. They look better in the finished dish. Large incisions do not look as neat.
  • Pastry brushes: are great to use to paint a sauce onto a plate for presentation
  • Potato peelers: are great for creating avocado petals.
  • Plastic rings: excellent substitutes for ring molds - make your own!
  • Praline: a quick way is to make this is to blend almonds and olive oil - lovely with fish or sprinkled on salad.
  • Quince Paste: Melt down and use to glaze ham or brush over peeled pears or apple on tarts.
  • Quenelles: Make cream quenelles by dipping the spoon into hot water, take a spoonful of cream and roll it on the side of the bowl. This saves using the two spoon technique which is hard to master.
  • Quail Eggs: Excellent for canapes, floated on soups, cracked over on pizza, boiled and eaten with celery salt or used for just about anything you can think of in the egg garnish department.
  • Raspberry Coulis: is better made with frozen berries than fresh and used straight from the freezer - do not bother to thaw them.
  • Rice, the Asian way:use any long-grain rice. Wash up to five times until the water is clear. Cover with enough water to go halfway up your thumb nail. Add salt. Cover and bring to the boil. Turn the heat to its lowest setting, leave for 15 minutes. DO NOT REMOVE THE LID. If the heat is hard to control, leave only for 10 minutes then remove from the heat and leave on the side for another 10 minutes with the lid on. A pilot light is best to put the saucepan on if there is one, for 25 minutes. To cook rice in the oven from scratch, cover with a wet cartouche, then foil and cook at 180C for 16 minutes.
  • Strawberry Huller: use this little gadget to remove the stalk on a tomato. Makes life much easier.
  • Slicing smoked salmon: To make life easier and save time, precut your salmon , store in layers covered with cling film between each layer and keep in the fridge until ready to use. Makes it easier and faster to handle at the last minute.
  • Salmon blood line: If preparing sashimi or using any cured salmon either remove the blood line or hide it when rolling fish for presentation. The blood line is not a good look.
  • Skim stock: stir the stock anticlockwise first then clockwise and catch the scum with a ladle as it comes back around.
  • Sausages, homemade: a little egg white is better than a whole egg as a binding agent if you need one. If the meat is VERY fresh you probably won't need one. After making sausages keep them in the fridge overnight. Next day blanch them from a cold water start and remove them the instant the water boils. Drain. Now grill or BBQ or fry and they will not split. Do NOT prick them.
  • Steak - whole fillet: Slice fillet into individual steaks and tie each steak with kitchen string. This holds the steak together, keeps them all the same shape and makes for more even cooking and they are easier to turn. Presentation is number one and steaks cooked this way look professional and uniformal.
  • Salmon - spray a fish kettle: with oil from a tin - nothing worse than a whole expensive salmon sticking to the kettle and getting wrecked in the removal process.
  • Steam potatoes first: before you saute, roast, fry etc. The less water in them the better the result of the next cooking process. This is one of the best cooking tips to learn.
  • Salad Dressing test: drag a leaf through the dressing not the dressing over the leaf. The dressing must lightly coat not swim!
  • Tomatoes: go even better with tarragon than basil!
  • Tempering: Wine, herbs and spices all get lost in the cooking process. Add a little more of each of these to your dish at the last minute, just prior to serving, so a real taste of these flavours to be easily identified.
  • Torchless!: If you don't own a blow torch for cooking - wear a thick oven-glove, heat a fork over an open flame then burn the fork onto the creme bruleé top or other similar dish.
  • Vegetables: Blanch green vegetables to al dente stage then drain and refresh in ice water. This arrests the cooking process and helps to maintain colour. Reheat later in a little butter so they are shiney and hot.
  • Vegetable timings for a stew: providing all are cut the same size: celery takes 25 minutes to cook, carrots and leeks 20, potatoes 15, turnips 8. Place them in the pot in this order.
  • Verjuice: Excellent to deglaze the pan for fish or chicken.
  • Water: Use boiled water immediately - don't keep reboiling it or leave it sitting around. This maintains oxygen levels and keeps vegetables green.
  • Watermelon in dressings: brings out the flavour in seafood especially on finely sliced raw fish.

    ©Cheryl Stevns-2009-2010

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